1. Patrice Evra (Manchester United)
Evra unquestionably became one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest signings when Manchester United paid £5.5 million to recruit him from Monaco in 2006. He may have been past his peak by the time of his 2014 departure, but for several seasons Evra was widely regarded as one of the world’s leading left-backs.
It wasn’t until the 2006/07 season when that became the case. A traumatic debut in a traumatic derby defeat by Manchester City, when Evra was repeatedly exposed as United lost 3-1, shattered whatever belief the Frenchman may have had upon his arrival.
He’d gone from playing in front of home crowds of 7,000 to around 76,000, and his form was so disappointing that he was dropped ahead of a fixture with Liverpool and missed out on the 2006 World Cup, while Mikael Silvestre was recalled at full-back after several seasons playing in central defence.
During the following season that all changed. Ahead of Gabriel Heinze, John O’Shea, and Silvestre, Evra deservedly established himself as Ferguson’s first choice left-back and even outlasted the manager, eventually departing for Serie A behemoths Juventus.